First-Time Homebuyer? Here’s How to Buy Your First Home

FTHomebuyer

Owning a home is a major milestone many Americans expect to achieve in their lifetime. It’s not simply about having the ability to stay in one place for years – it’s also about taking advantage of the incentives to homeownership, including the financial security to make a major investment and see it grow over time.

Even the millennial generation, which has been slower to become a major part of the homeowner pool than previous generations, now makes up 37% of recent homebuyers, the largest share of the market, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, published in April.

Following a decline in homeownership after the Great Recession, the homeownership rate nationwide was 64.1% as of the second quarter of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While homeownership has not returned to its historical peak of 69.2% in 2004, it is edging upward again after hitting a 50-year low in mid-2016 at 62.9%.

While buying a house for the first time may be intimidating, no homeowner started the process feeling confident every step of the way. Here’s what first-time homebuyers need to know.

Are You Ready to Become a Homeowner?

Long before you start looking at houses, you must be sure your finances are in order. The process of saving and making strategic financial decisions to ensure your credit history is more appealing to a lender can take more than a couple months if you haven’t already been working toward buying a house.

“I would say a year plus – and make sure you’re saving toward that goal over a period of time,” says Amin Dabit, vice president of advisory services for Personal Capital, an online financial advisory and wealth management company.

1. Credit history. Run a credit report on yourself – which is free to do once a year and doesn’t affect your credit by going to annualcreditreport.com and receiving a report from each the three major credit-reporting agencies – and focus on the areas you can improve. You may have credit card balances to pay off, or a few missed student loan payments from a couple years ago. You may also simply need more time to pass from a recent borrowing mistake. The more time that passes from the last blemish on your credit report, the less likely a lender is to consider it a red flag to give you a loan.

2. How much house can you afford? How good your finances look from a mortgage lender’s perspective isn’t the only thing to examine. You should also look at savings that can be used toward a down payment and determine how much you’d be able to afford on a monthly basis for your principal mortgage payment, interest, taxes and insurance, which Dabit recommends calculating as 28% of your gross income. “That’ll help you figure out how much you can borrow and sustain long-term,” he says.

3. Savings for down-the-road expenses. You also have to take into account maintenance and other potential costs that may come up as a homeowner. If you live in a particularly competitive or pricey market, such as San Francisco or the District of Columbia, it’s reasonable to expect your monthly costs to be higher than 28% at the start.

4. Who should you consult? Once you’ve examined your financial history and expected future cash flow, it’s time to start talking to the professionals who will be able to help you throughout the process of buying a house.

A natural start is with a real estate agent. Once you’ve found an agent you can trust, he or she can help you find a financial advisor if needed, a loan officer connected with a lender, a real estate attorney, a title insurance representative, a home inspector and many more faces that will be part of your transaction.

“The agent’s really the core source of all those, or at least can be,” says Josh Heyer, a licensed real estate salesperson with Triplemint, a full-service brokerage in New York City.

Approach the process as assembling a team of people who will help you achieve homeownership. With each person, you want to feel confident that the professional will work in your best interests. Heyer recommends not only speaking with multiple professionals regarding your mortgage and home inspection, but also interviewing several agents at the start.

“I want you to be comfortable with me throughout this entire transaction, and I would rather you meet with a variety of agents first to make sure that I am the one you want to work with going forward,” Heyer says.

What Mortgage Options Are Best for You?

When it comes to finding a mortgage, explore options with different lenders and the various products offered. Major banks, credit unions and nonbank lenders offer a variety of options to better fit your specific needs as a homeowner.

The key to figuring out which program is best for you is determining how much cash you have for a down payment. By putting 20% of the home price down or paying for private mortgage insurance for a smaller down payment, you can qualify for a conventional mortgage.

Alternatively, you can put less money down with other options, like an FHA loan through the Federal Housing Administration, which requires less money down and a less impressive credit history but typically comes with a higher interest rate. Veterans are able to take advantage of VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which require no money down but have additional fees.

There are many loan product varieties, and your interest rate can be fixed, most commonly in the form of a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, or adjustable, known as an adjustable-rate mortgage, which remains fixed for a specified number of years before changing gradually toward the industry rate.

In finding the mortgage product that works best for your financial situation, it’s essential to prequalify or get preapproved for a mortgage amount. This will let you know how much your lender is willing to loan you to buy a house.

But don’t take that maximum approved number as the price you should pay for a house. “In most cases, you shouldn’t borrow the maximum amount that a mortgage lender tells you (that) you can borrow,” Dabit says. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to skimp on other typical expenses, like food, for a few years or more.

Originally published here.

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5 Tips for Making Your Home Holiday Ready

Holidays

Maybe it’s the sparse foliage or the colder weather, but decorating for fall and winter holidays seems so much more important – and more inviting – than any other time of year. With frequent family gatherings during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, among other holidays, creating a cheerful, gracious atmosphere for guests is de rigueur.

Whether you’ll be decorating on a dime or are ready to call in the pros, here are five tips for making your home safe, inviting and delightful during the holiday season:

  • Hire professional decorators.
  • Make your own decorations.
  • Keep safety in mind.
  • Make guests feel welcome.
  • Remember your pets.

Outsource Your Holiday Chores

For magnificent holiday decor with minimal effort, tapping into professional decorators is a wonderful time-saver during the busiest, most stressful time of year. While some contractors work exclusively outdoors, creating lighting extravaganzas to rival that of Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” many full-service holiday decorators offer extensive interior and exterior services encompassing stoops, stairwells, fireplaces, Christmas trees, dining tables and more.

Check your local business listings, homeowners association and personal network for recommendations, and be sure to ask all the right questions before signing up. For example, what exactly does the quote include? How long does installation take? What items are you buying and what components are you renting during the installation? If fresh foliage will be used, how should it be cared for and how long should it be expected to last? What are your options if anything begins to wilt or sag unexpectedly? Does the contracted price include post-holiday undecorating, and if so, how do you go about scheduling the removal?

Make Merry While Saving Money

If the expense of a professional decorator is out of reach, fantastic holiday decor is easily achievable on a small budget. In fact, handmade decorations often last longer, have a warmer appeal and provide an excellent opportunity to get creative while spending time with family and friends.

Garlands are a marvelous way to make gorgeous tree trimmings on the cheap. Gather up old buttons, beads, sequins and ribbon, or add in traditional organic elements like popcorn and cranberries, and let your imagination run wild. Bunting, bows, and banners for all variety of holidays, plus wrapping paper and ribbons, can be found on the cheap online, at dollar stores or post-holiday sales.

An upfront investment on exceptional quality, say for well-made keepsake ornaments, stockings, menorahs and nativity sets, can last for years to come rather than ending up on the curb come New Year’s Day.

Be Sensible About Safety

Whether you take a hands-off or a hands-on approach to holiday decorating, safety should always be your No. 1 consideration. Between jack-o’-lanterns, Christmas trees, holiday cooking and Hanukkah candles, the fall and winter months can be a dangerous time for residential fires. U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 1,000 incidents each year from Christmas trees and decorations alone, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Be mindful of all open flames and fireplaces, keeping them well clear of kids, pets and flammable decorations.

Even better, choose battery-operated candles wherever possible. Double-check all twinkle lights to make sure cords are in good order, and supervise all holiday cooking. Lastly, check those smoke alarms and ensure your family has an evacuation plan in order should something go wrong.

Of course, safety extends far beyond fire prevention. Keep doors and windows locked, alarm systems on and gifts out of sight to help prevent thefts. Keep small kids away from choking hazards, and for those of you in colder climates, clear snow and ice from walkways and stairs.

Make Guests Feel Welcome

A beautifully arranged guest room can do wonders to lift the moods of travel-weary friends and family.

Take a five-senses approach to decorating guest accommodations: High thread-count linens, fluffy towels, and thick comforters tend to the sense of touch, while candles, soaps and fresh flowers provide an inviting aroma. Consider including plenty of reading materials and noise-canceling headphones for jet-lagged visitors. And who can resist a plate of fresh-baked cookies, a bowl of in-season fruit and a small coffee pot or electric tea kettle?

Don’t forget to add little conveniences like space for hanging clothes, a suitcase stand, a selection of toiletries and a handwritten welcome note with the Wi-Fi password and agenda, if any. Even if your accommodations are more pull-out couch than a private guest suite, you can still deliver a gracious welcome with a small side table and gift basket devoted to the items above.

Don’t Forget Your Fur Family

Pets often need special care and attention during the holidays, especially if they’re not used to a bit of hustle and bustle. Make sure cats and dogs have a safe and quiet place to retreat if you’re expecting guests or trick-or-treaters, and be aware of the many toxic plants that are common during the holiday season, including poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Whether as a climbing post or a tug-of-war partner, a Christmas tree is often irresistible to our four-legged-friends, so ensure that trees are securely anchored and supervised at all times. Advise family members and houseguests to avoid handing out human-food treats to furry beggars, monitor all open flames, and avoid tinsel (a serious digestive hazard) in pet-friendly homes entirely.

Often equally joyous and stressful, the holidays can be a heady, busy time. But they’re also when our warmest, most long-lasting memories of home and family are created. With a little bit of thoughtful planning and a whole lot of patience, the holidays can be merry, bright and safe for all.

Originally published here. 

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Is a 15- or 30-Year Mortgage Right for You?

Mortgage15-30

MORTGAGES COME WITH many options, and one of them is your loan term: a 15-year versus 30-year mortgage. A 30-year mortgage can make your payments more affordable, but a 15-year mortgage is generally cheaper overall. As you’re weighing your mortgage options, here are the most important things to know about 15- and 30-year mortgages.

How a 15- vs. 30-Year Mortgage Works

A mortgage is a type of term loan, meaning the amount you borrow is repaid over a set period of time. You make principal and interest payments according to an amortization schedule that’s set by the lender. Your monthly payment schedule may also include homeowners insurance and property taxes if those are escrowed into your payment. Private mortgage insurance is also added when applicable, usually when you buy a home with less than 20% down.

When you have a 15-year mortgage, the total amount you have to repay is spread out over 15 years, or 180 payments. If you choose a 30-year mortgage instead, you repay the loan over 30 years, or 360 payments.

What’s Good About a 15-Year Mortgage

There are several good reasons to choose a 15-year over a 30-year mortgage.

Pay the home off more quickly.

“The monthly payments will be larger, allowing more money to go to the principal in a shorter amount of time,” says Benjamin Ross, a real estate agent in Texas. Your loan balance disappears faster, which might be important to you if you envision a retirement that doesn’t include mortgage debt.

Lower interest rate.

Because you’re paying your home loan off sooner with a 15-year term, your mortgage becomes less risky for the bank. That may translate to a lower interest rate compared with a 30-year loan. Depending on the overall interest rate environment, rates for a 15-year mortgage may be a half a percentage point or more lower than 30-year mortgage rates.

Less interest total over the loan term.

A lower interest rate also benefits you in another way when adding up the total interest paid on the loan. Here’s a simple side-by-side comparison of the total interest paid on a $300,000 mortgage.

(Note: These calculations don’t include PMI, homeowners insurance or property taxes escrowed into the mortgage.)

15-YEAR MORTGAGE TERM 30-YEAR MORTGAGE TERM
Interest rate: 3% Interest rate: 3.625%
Monthly payment: $2,072 Monthly payment: $1,368
Total interest paid: $72,914 Total interest paid: $192,535
In this example, choosing a shorter loan term and qualifying for a lower interest rate results in a total interest savings of $119,621. That’s a substantial amount of money you could keep in your pocket over time.

Build equity faster.

Home equity represents the difference between what your home is worth and what you owe on the mortgage. When your monthly payment is larger because your loan term is shorter, you can build equity at a quicker pace because you’re paying more of the loan principal down each month compared with what you would with a longer mortgage.

15-Year Mortgage Drawbacks

What’s great about 15-year mortgages versus 30-year mortgages is also what makes them less attractive for certain homebuyers: a larger monthly payment.

Going back to the previous example of a 15- vs. 30-year loan, the mortgage payment for the 15-year option is $704 higher. A $2,000-plus monthly mortgage payment may not be realistic for every budget.

“A lot of people are more concerned with ensuring that their monthly payment is manageable than the total interest paid over the life of the loan,” says Anthony Sherman, co-founder and CEO of Simplist, a digital mortgage marketplace. “Paying off your mortgage over a longer period of time can free up cash to do other important things, like investing, saving for college or retirement, and paying for renovations.”

Another reason to reconsider a shorter loan term is how long you plan to stay in the home. If you plan to move within the next five years, for example, then being able to build equity faster or get a lower interest rate on the loan may not be as important in your decision-making about which kind of mortgage to get.

What’s Good About 30-Year Mortgages

A 30-year home loan also has its advantages. Here’s why you might prefer a longer loan instead:

Lower monthly payments.

You don’t need to be a math genius to understand that a longer loan term can make your payments lower. That might be attractive if you want to be able to work on other financial goals while you pay down your home loan. If you’re getting a larger mortgage, being able to pay over 30 years could make the payments more affordable for your budget.

Payment flexibility.

While you’re agreeing to a 30-year mortgage term, you can still choose to make extra payments. That could help you pay the loan off ahead of schedule.

More potential for tax savings.

Interest on home loans is tax-deductible. When you have a 15-year loan, you’re paying off more of the interest upfront, so you may not benefit from the tax deduction as long as you would with a 30-year mortgage instead.

30-Year Mortgage Drawbacks

There are some drawbacks to choosing a 30-year home loan over a shorter term.

As the earlier example showed, the biggest drawback is interest. Not only can you end up with a higher interest rate on a 30-year mortgage, but you’ll also pay more total interest on the loan. That assumes, of course, that you stick with the same loan term and don’t refinance to a shorter mortgage at any point.

Refinancing from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan could save you money if you’re able to get a lower interest rate. Whether refinancing makes sense depends largely on the difference between your current interest rate and the rate you’d qualify for, as well as how much you still owe on the mortgage. Keep in mind that refinancing may involve an upfront expense since you have to pay closing costs. You could roll those into your loan, but that can nudge your monthly payments higher.

Another drawback is that you’ll take longer to build equity with a 30-year loan, since you’re paying a smaller amount toward the interest and principal each month. That could be a disadvantage if you were hoping to take out a home equity loan or line of credit at some point to consolidate debt or finance home improvement projects.

How to Choose a Mortgage Term

The best way to evaluate whether a 15- or 30-year mortgage is better is to consider your plans and priorities.

Specifically, think about:

  • How long you plan to stay in the home
  • Whether you’d like to tap into your equity eventually
  • The amount you plan to borrow and how much you’ll put down
  • What size mortgage payment you can reasonably afford
  • How a mortgage payment affects your ability to pursue other financial goals

Timing is particularly important because of how mortgage payments are structured.

“In the first 10 years of the loan, over two-thirds of your monthly payment is comprised of interest,” Sherman says. “So, if you don’t plan on living in your home for more than 10 years, you’ll end up paying a lot of interest but only paying down very little of the original principal.”

Thinking big picture, in terms of your larger financial goals, can help you decide which loan option is a better fit for your situation.

“If the goal is to build quick equity and pay off the loan sooner, the 15-year plan is a good one,” Ross says. “If one is buying a home long term and has no intent on using equity, perhaps a 30-year loan would be more appropriate, especially if they can’t afford the higher monthly payment.”

When in doubt, run the numbers through a mortgage calculator using 15- and 30-year terms. This can put the short- and long-term financial implications of either loan in perspective.

Originally published here.

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IN ESCROW! 2 Avenida Cristal, San Clemente 92673

2 Avenida Cristal

Representing the buyers of this gorgeous home!

Come for the location and stay for the view! A sweeping vista of the Talega golf course and the hills beyond with cool ocean breezes blowing in from the coast only a few miles away. After an early dinner in Old Town San Clemente make your way back in 10 minutes to your 3BR, 2BA single-story residence that sits at the end of a cul de sac and relax on the largest patio in the terrific Carmel community, enjoying enchanting sunsets by the fire pit, listening to the waterfall and perhaps contemplating hosting a barbecue for friends and neighbors. When it’s time to sleep, your master bedroom faces the back, open the window and invite the gentle breezes in as you sleep in bliss. There is central AC (you’ll rarely need it) and if you find yourself cold in January, central heating and a gas fireplace in the living room. The master bedroom sports not only dual sinks but dual shower heads as well! …use your imagination! There is a large walk in closet for all your favorite clothes. There are new Moen fixtures in both bathrooms and the kitchen has GE’s high-end Monogram appliances and a Viking 6 burner stovetop, so you better be cooking. Ceramic tile floors run throughout with the exception of the carpeted master bedroom. If not your style, we can help you on that with some credit to redesign. A short distance away is Talega Village Center, where you can shop for groceries or enjoy a dinner out. So, are you creative, artistic, athletic and ready to relax?

Looking for a home similar or curious about your home value? Give me a call!

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IN ESCROW! 4013 Calle Isabella, San Clemente

4013 Calle Isabella, San Clemente, CA 92672

Congrats to my sellers of this beautiful 4 bedroom and 3 bathroom house in the exclusive Cyprus Shore community! This wonderful home has a cathedral ceiling entrance with two fireplaces. All the bedrooms are large in size. One bedroom is currently used as an office. There is a private backyard with built-in BBQ and custom built-in outdoor fireplace. Minutes to walk to the beach, pools, and tennis courts … you will feel like you are always on vacation!

Want to see how I can get these same results for you? Give me a call now!

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7 Home Upgrades That Will Attract First-Time Homebuyers

7 Home Upgrades That Will Attract First-Time Homebuyers

There’s a common misconception about millennials being uninterested in, or simply unprepared for, homeownership. The statistics simply don’t bear this out: A realtor.com analysis published in early 2019 found millennials accounted for more than 40% of all new home loans.

The implication for home sellers is clear – there’s a decent chance that some of the house hunters who show up to your property are going to be in the millennial age range, so it can really pay off to know your prospective buyer demographic and home upgrades that will definitely catch their attention.

Specifically, there are some home upgrades that tend to be more appealing to those in the millennial buying bracket. As you think about the best way to sell a property, keep these upgrades in mind:

  • Smart home technology.
  • Gathering spaces.
  • USB chargers.
  • A home office.
  • Energy-saving appliances.
  • Neutral colors.
  • Garage tech.

Smart Home Technology

Millennials have a reputation for being tech savvy, so it makes sense that they would be interested in whole-house connectivity, including home automation options that allow them to control things like the thermostat, sound system, garage door or the security system alarm from an app on their phone.

Technologies that help reduce the cost of utilities, such as a smart home thermostat, are especially marketable.

Gathering Spaces

When selling your house, one of the most important steps is staging. And if you think you’ll have some first-time buyers show up for a tour or an open house, you might stage your home to emphasize areas where the homeowners can gather with their friends.

For example, if you set up a room in such a way that it looks just perfect for kicking back, watching the big game or even firing up a video game console, that might really appeal to young couples eager to entertain.

USB Chargers

Smartphones are ubiquitous, and millennials are going to have their eyes open for easily available charging stations. If you convert even one or two outlets to include USB chargers, that can go over very well with millennial house hunters. Ultimately, this small investment can really help you sell your home.

A Home Office

Historically, real estate agents have actually advised against having home office spaces, simply because they have generally not been very attractive to buyers. In recent years, that’s started to change, especially among younger professionals. Remote work opportunities are on the rise, and millennial buyers may be eager to find a space that’s created for them to set up shop.

If your house has more than a couple of bedrooms, you may consider configuring one to look more like an office setting, simply demonstrating to buyers how flexible the space can be.

Energy-Saving Appliances

Millennial buyers tend to be on the lookout for ways to reduce the expenses incurred by homeownership. One natural option is energy-efficient appliances.

Replacing your washing machine, dryer or dishwasher with something Energy Star-certified can be a good way to signal to potential buyers that there are savings embedded in your property.

Neutral Colors

This is actually just good advice no matter which homebuying demographic you’re appealing to. Most house hunters prefer soft, neutral colors to anything bright or garish, and millennials are no exception. So try to look for those soft grays or warm tans when repainting.

Garage Tech

Again, millennial buyers are known for their embrace of all the latest technology, and you may have some who want to bring the most up-to-date gadgets out to the garage. This may even include charging a smart car.

Newer garage door openers are equipped with remote technology, allowing you to open and close the door from an app. This can be a smart gesture toward the lifestyle of your millennial buyers.

These are just a few of the home upgrades we’d recommend when your millennial-aged buyers are likely to be considering your home. There are definitely more home upgrades to consider when attracting any buyer. But this list is a great place to start.

Originally published here.

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The Guide to Contemporary Design Trends for Your Home

The Guide to Contemporary Design Trends for Your Home

Wanting a home that looks stylish and photo-worthy is a common goal. But how can you keep up with the trendsetting interior spaces of the moment? Contemporary design trends often find inspiration from existing styles, and combine them to make the look we see on TV, Pinterest and in interior design magazines.

In order to grasp the right interior design techniques, you’ll first need to understand what contemporary design is. Then, you’ll be able to take the trends and make them work in your home.

Here are eight ways you can incorporate contemporary design trends:

  • Clean lines.
  • Combined styles.
  • Simple colors.
  • Exposed imperfections.
  • Comfortable furniture.
  • Hard floors.
  • Additional decor.
  • Function and form in the right places.

Understanding Contemporary Design

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how you can make contemporary design work in your home, it’s important to note the difference between contemporary design and other styles, which may sound similar and intersect in certain trends or details, but are in fact distinct.

Contemporary design. Contemporary design reflects the design trends of the moment and is often a combination of other existing design styles to mirror the common preferences of the current time. Contemporary design is often misrepresented as modern, and while it can – and often does – incorporate the modern design style, there are more details at play. Because it follows popular styles of the moment, contemporary design looks current and doesn’t immediately evoke thoughts of a specific time period or style exclusively. Contemporary design of today is characterized by an overall clean look, with simple decoration and subtle variations in color and texture throughout a space.

Modern design. Modern design is defined by a specific time period – namely, the mid-20th century – and is embodied by its focus on function, minimalism, clean lines, geometric patterns and the emergence of plastic as a material for furniture and decor. Contemporary design does pull from midcentury modern design aesthetics, but contemporary design goes beyond to include other design styles as well.

Traditional design. Traditional design, on the other hand, embraces more ornate decor, incorporates rich colors and has a distinct European influence. Traditional design focuses closely on details, with claw foot furniture, overstuffed couches and chairs and architectural elements like crown molding, columns and built-in cabinets and shelves.

Read on for the lowdown on contemporary design trends and ideas you can add to your home.

Clean Lines

While not quite as simplistic as midcentury modern style, contemporary trends are aimed at avoiding an overcomplicated look. You want the eye to naturally flow from one object in the room to the other, rather than getting overwhelmed looking at a space.

Combining Styles

If you shop exclusively at one store to decorate your home, it’ll likely capture a specific style. Ikea, for instance, will give your home a clear Swedish modern feel, while West Elm furniture tends to focus on midcentury modern. Keep your space contemporary by including multiple design aesthetics, rather than sticking to one.

Purposely mix different styles and periods in one room, says Adam Meshberg, founder and principal of architecture and interior design firm Meshberg Group, based in New York City. “Mix it up and maybe put some graffiti art in a painting mixed in with a washed Persian rug,” he says. “It gives it a unique style.”

Simple Colors

Neutrals are the go-to color scheme for contemporary design, with bright colors used as accents. Often walls and main pieces of furniture in a room are kept neutral, allowing for pillows, blankets, wall art or tabletop decor to offer one or two accent colors in the room.

But the choice of grays or beige doesn’t have to be boring. Rising in popularity for paint colors are the shades that have undertones of warmer red or pink, or even opting for a more metallic gray, says Tina Nokes, co-owner of Five Star Painting in Loudoun County, Virginia, part of the Neighborly network of home service companies. “Those warm grays and silvery grays are still the most popular thing we do,” she says.

In some cases, you can even make your walls the accent color – either with a single wall or even the entire room – by focusing neutrals in the furniture and other decor. “A lot of people like the teals, (and) the blue-green that looks like water,” Nokes says.

Exposed Imperfections

An exposed brick wall or uncovered air ducts and pipes coming from the ceiling often work well in contemporary design. Ductwork and piping can be left in their natural state, or they can be painted to help them blend in (or even stand out more) with the rest of a room. The exposed look pulls from industrial design, which is becoming a larger part of contemporary design trends in recent years.

“People love the story of the old bones of houses or buildings,” Meshberg says. Even if your home is relatively new, he says you can expose a concrete wall or even bring in reclaimed wood that wasn’t there before to offer up a look that makes the space feel unique.

In June, the online furniture company Joybird examined the top-searched interior design styles by state through Google Trends. The findings, released in a report, note that industrial style was most popular, with 12 states seeing it as the most commonly searched design aesthetic, including three states in the Midwest, much of the Mountain West and additional outliers like Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

Comfortable Furniture

Contemporary furniture follows the same rules of simplicity, without too much decoration or complication. But the pieces should also focus on comfort and function – a couch and chairs that make it easy for family and friends to sit for hours adheres to contemporary goals.

The most popular furniture choices stick to neutrals for the main chairs, couches and coffee or side tables. Select pieces that show the legs of the couch or chair, rather than having a skirt around it – a style that is now considered dated.

Hard Floors

Because the focus of a contemporary design is on clean lines and a clean space overall, you’re more likely to see hardwood, tile or vinyl floors in a contemporary home. Carpeting doesn’t line up well with contemporary styles, and while rugs are used, they’re often used sparingly and as accent patterns or colors.

In an open floor plan, continuous flooring throughout the space is common to make the area look big and cohesive, but to help break it up and establish more intimate spaces, consider introducing additional materials.

In designing the lobby space of a Brooklyn apartment building, Meshberg inlaid tile in the area of the business center, breaking up the concrete flooring of the entire lobby area. “It juxtaposes a handcrafted look with an industrial look,” Meshberg says.

Additional Decor

Contemporary trends in previous years have centered around a more minimalist look to focus on clean lines, but more tabletop or shelf decor has become the emerging trend. You can also personalize the space with photos, vases, candles and plants that speak to your individual style in a room.

Family heirlooms on display or a collection of vintage items that appeal to your tastes – cameras, books or even dishes – show personality, but also follows popular love of vintage items. In the Joybird report, the second-most popular interior design style by state was vintage, which is the No. 1 style among searches in Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.

Vases, planters and tabletop decor should follow contemporary rules for clean lines – go for the simpler design rather than one that introduces an overly complicated pattern or ornate silhouette.

Function and Form in the Right Places

While you may tend to lean toward the most simplistic details of contemporary design to avoid making a decorating faux pas, there are certainly parts of your home where you can be a bit more adventurous with color, pattern and texture.

If you have more than one living space, for example, embrace more traditional European details in a formal living room. “If it’s formal, you can do more drama because it’s not used as much,” Nokes says.

Additionally powder rooms or half bathrooms are a perfect place to showcase a patterned wallpaper – it may be overwhelming in a larger space, but walls covered in palm leaf or flamingo designs can be a fun surprise for guests who pop in to wash their hands.

Originally published here.

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4 Reasons to Sell this Fall


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Some Highlights:

  • Buyers are active in the market and often competing with one another for available listings.
  • Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply found in a normal housing market.
  • Homes are still selling relatively quickly, averaging 31 days on the market.

Originally published here.

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Home Sales Expected to Continue Increasing In 2020

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Freddie MacFannie Maeand the Mortgage Bankers Association are all projecting home sales will increase nicely in 2020.

Below is a chart depicting the projections of each entity for 2019, as well as for 2020.Home Sales Expected to Continue Increasing In 2020 | Keeping Current MattersAs we can see, Freddie MacFannie Mae, and the Mortgage Bankers Association all believe homes sales will increase steadily over the next year. If you’re a homeowner who has considered selling your house recently, now may be the best time to put it on the market. Give me a call today.

Originally published here.

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A Home Maintenance Checklist for Every Season

Seasonal Home Checklist

Owning a home comes with year-round responsibilities, but you don’t have to dread these tasks. “Home maintenance is easier than people think,” says Jim Magliaro, risk consulting technical lead at the insurance company Chubb. The key is to complete seasonal preventive measures which are more manageable and less expensive than the costly repairs that might be needed if household systems are neglected. Here’s a primer on the essential tasks to be completed each season of the year.

Summer

Summer is a perfect time to make sure your home systems are in working order. The warm weather also makes this season an ideal time to take care of outdoor tasks that can deter pests and minimize the chances of property damage later in the year.

Here are important home maintenance tasks to complete in summer:

  • Test GFCI outlets.
  • Secure outdoor furniture.
  • Add anchor bolts to doors.
  • Cut back vegetation.
  • Trim branches and remove dying trees.

Test GFCI outlets. Kitchens, bathrooms and other areas that may be exposed to moisture should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, outlets. These outlets are designed to avoid electrical shocks and minimize the possibility of fires by shutting off the flow of electricity when a ground fault occurs. The easiest way to test that the outlets are working properly is to plug in a radio, turn it on and push the test button on the outlet. If the radio shuts off, the outlet is working as it should; if not, it should be replaced.

Secure outdoor furniture. Summertime storms can upend patio furniture and large equipment, such as trampolines and swing sets. Secure items to the ground or deck with anchors, bolts or cords, and properly store items when not in use. It may also be helpful to create a wind barrier around furniture by planting shrubbery or installing a decorative wall.

Add anchor bolts to doors. Joe Meisinger, chief underwriting officer for personal insurance at Travelers, says 27% of the home claims his company receives in the summer are related to wind damage. High winds can cause garage and house doors to fail, but anchor bolts help secure doors to the structure of a home. They may be especially useful in areas prone to tropical storms and hurricanes. If you are replacing a front door, Meisinger suggests getting one that opens out. That way, high winds will seal a door shut tightly, rather than trying to push it open.

Cut back vegetation. Keep pests at bay by trimming or removing vegetation that may be close to the house, advises Mike Malone, senior vice president of marketing and inside sales for pest control company Arrow Exterminators. Left unchecked, this greenery could attract and conceal insects, rodents and other wildlife.

Trim branches and remove dying trees. Walk around your property and look for overhanging limbs, cracked branches or dying trees. Trimming branches and removing unhealthy trees in the summer can help prevent a tree limb from falling on your home or vehicle during a future storm. Meisinger recommends maintaining a 10-foot clearance between the house and tree limbs.

Fall

Fall can be a busy season for household chores. “It’s always a good time to prep the house for the winter,” Meisinger says. That means getting heating systems in order and preparing for the cooler weather ahead.

Here are important home maintenance tasks to complete in fall:

  • Clean out gutters.
  • Add insulation.
  • Protect pipes.
  • Clean the chimney.
  • Inspect your HVAC system.

Clean out gutters. Falling leaves and debris can fill gutters and clog downspouts. In snowy climates, ice dams are the main hazard associated with clogged gutters going into the winter months. However, keeping gutters free of dirt and debris should help you avoid the problem.

Add insulation. Insulation is important not only for comfort, but also for protecting the integrity of your home. It can prevent ice dams and pipes from freezing and may protect against fires. However, be careful not to add too much insulation. People naturally create moisture in a house through cooking, cleaning and bathing. Too much insulation, combined with a lack of ventilation, means that moisture has no place to go and can lead to a wet attic and mold growth.

Protect pipes. Water pipes in crawl spaces, attics or basements may be prone to freezing in the winter. Adding insulation to a house is one way to prevent that from happening. Other ways to prevent freezing include plugging drafty cracks or holes in walls near pipes or wrapping them with foam or another insulating substance. Outdoor pipes, such as those for sprinkler systems, should be drained and their water source turned off to prevent frozen or burst pipes in the winter.

Clean the chimney. The fall is a good time to have a professional inspect and clean your chimney if you have a fireplace. They can remove creosote that has built up inside and check for other potential hazards such as bird nests and debris.

Inspect your HVAC system. You don’t want to wait until the winter to have your furnace checked. “Staying on top of HVAC maintenance during the milder seasons will ensure your system is running at its best when the frigid winter or sweltering summer arrives,” says Matt Orcutt, portfolio leader for ducted and split systems at Trane Residential, a premium HVAC brand that’s part of the Ingersoll Rand family. “A tech will clean the system, look for leaks and monitor for potential issues that could impact its efficiency.” Fall is also a good time to have boilers, radiators, heat pumps and similar systems inspected.

Winter

Ushering in ice and snow, winter can be a harsh time of the year in many parts of the country. Not only do homeowners need to protect your home against external damage from storms, but they need to address potentially devastating internal hazards. One-third of all home claim payouts made by Travelers in the winter are fire-related, according to Meisinger, making it the most expensive loss to incur during the season. However, you need to worry about pest control and internal air quality during the cold winter months as well.

Here are important home maintenance tasks to complete in winter:

  • Change the furnace filter.
  • Seal cracks and holes.
  • Update alarm and alert systems.
  • Clean out your dryer vent.
  • Review your insurance coverage.

Change the furnace filter. This isn’t an annual task, but one that should occur every couple months during the heating season. “It’s crucial to replace air filters every 30 to 90 days, monitor for abnormal sounds or smells, keep the outdoor unit free of dirt and debris and inspect the base pan for blocked drains,” Orcutt says. Otherwise, you could be faced with less-efficient heating, higher utility bills and potential health hazards due to air pollution.

Seal cracks and holes. “Wildlife look for a warm environment to seek food and shelter from the frigid temperatures,” Malone says. To ensure they aren’t overwintering with you, seal exterior cracks or holes with caulking, foam or another filler. Make sure screens are firmly affixed over vents and other larger openings. Pay particular attention to the roofline, chimney and areas where pipes enter the house.

Update alarm and alert systems. Though they won’t prevent a fire, alarm systems can minimize damage and save lives in the event of one. Homes should have a smoke alarm outside every bedroom and on every level of the house. Photoelectric alarms may be best at detecting smoldering fires that can fill a home with carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. “Maybe even get a smart smoke detector,” Meisinger says. These devices will send phone alerts in the event a fire or carbon monoxide is detected.

Clean out your dryer vent. While you should be cleaning a dryer’s lint trap after every use, vents need a deep cleaning at least one a year. Over time, lint can accumulate and even ignite. Check the vent hose and remove any accumulated buildup. Also, make sure the external vent is properly screened to prevent pests from accessing your home through it.

Review your insurance coverage. Not all home maintenance chores involve manual labor. As the calendar turns to a new year, it’s a good time to review your homeowner insurance policy. If you’ve made improvements in the past year, make sure those will be adequately covered and consider shopping around for a better deal if you haven’t compared insurance costs recently.

Spring

Spring can be an unpredictable time that brings snow, flooding and high winds, and Meisinger notes 30% of all home claims made to Travelers from 2009-2016 occurred in the spring. Household chores during these months focus on preparing for shifting weather patterns as well as cleaning up any damage from the winter months.

Here are important home maintenance tasks to complete in spring:

  • Clean out gutters (again).
  • Do an exterior inspection of your property.
  • Renovate with impact-resistant materials.
  • Check your sump pump.
  • Turn off water when on vacation.

Clean out gutters (again). Between snow melt and spring showers, there is the potential for a lot of water to be running through your downspouts. “Make sure drainage systems are clear and working properly,” Magliaro advises.

Do an exterior inspection of your property. Those living in northern climates may not have spent a significant amount of time outside during the winter months. Even those in sunnier climates may not regularly inspect their home’s exterior. The spring is a good time to look for missing shingles, loose siding and hanging branches.

Renovate with impact-resistant materials. Hail causes some of the most expensive damage in the spring, according to Meisinger. If you need to replace roofing or siding, use an impact-resistant material to avoid future damage. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has developed a national standard that can be used as a checklist to guard against hurricane and wind damage.

Check your sump pump. Take action to ensure that water from outside doesn’t cause damage inside. “This is a great time to go down to your basement and check your sump pump,” Meisinger says. You can test that your sump pump is adding enough water to raise the pump’s float and see if it is pumped out properly. For a more thorough evaluation, consult with a plumbing professional.

Turn off water when on vacation. Magliaro notes 45% of property claims made to Chubb are related to internal water damage. To avoid expensive damage to your home, consider turning off your water supply when leaving for an extended period of time. Another way to avoid water damage is to check pipes to sinks, toilets and appliances for leaks or loose connections.

Originally Published here.

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